Let me take you back to my childhood living room. Picture it with me: a couch, a love seat, a floor model television, a console table, and a lamp or two. Typical furniture items, typical colors, typical living room. However, one thing sticks out that wasn’t so typical. Sitting on the console table shelf was a kaleidoscope. I’m not sure where my mom purchased it (or why) but I loved it.  I’d often pick it up from its stand, carefully place it to my eye, and slowly turn the end. Constantly finding myself in wonder and awe at the changing colors and designs, I also remember thinking, how does this work, is it magic? Now that years have gone by, I’ve learned it’s not magic at all but still very interesting.

Kaleidoscope Components

Kaleidoscopes bring together a combination of simple mirrors, angles, and objects in a scientific way. No magic, no mystery. At one end of the tube is an eye piece, at the other end is an end cap. Inside this, there are two or three mirrors (or reflective surfaces) positioned at specific angles to each other. This alignment creates a V-shape or a triangle. Most kaleidoscopes have everyday objects objects between the mirrors: glass pieces, ribbon, confetti, glitter, feathers, flower, beads, and buttons. These objects in thin, round boxes (made of transparent material like glass or plastic) called cells, which are just large enough for the items to freely move. Seems simple enough but where is the science?

Kaleidoscope Science

The science comes when light enters the kaleidoscope tube and travels in a straight line. However, when it bumps into something, it changes direction. This is called reflection. When light coming into a kaleidoscope hits the mirrors, it reflects back in the direction from which it came. When light hits the objects inside the kaleidoscopes, it reflects toward the mirror,  resulting in constant reflection and redirection within the tube. Think of it as a laser light show only the colors, shapes, designs and patterns of the show are determined by the objects within the kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope Fun

Since the objects move freely within the kaleidoscope tube, the reflection of light against the objects inside the kaleidoscope can not replicated. This means you will never see the same pattern or design in a kaleidoscope twice. So, next time you find yourself looking through the eye piece of a kaleidoscope, move slowly, soak up the beauty, and find the wonder and awe in it!  Also, check out PMG’s blog for more interesting and intriguing How It’s Made articles.

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

The history of manufacturing is an interesting one. Although it’s often looked at through the lens of the four industrial revolutions, there is a lot more to it than that.  Even though each revolution is very different from the previous,  there are also commonalities. One of those commonalities includes a machine tool, called a lathe, which was actually around waaaay before any of the industrial revolutions.

Archaeological digs have found evidence that dates as far back as the 13th century BCE showing use of lathes among Greek, Assyrian, and Egyptian woodworkers. These lathes required two people for operation. One person turned a piece of wood with the assistance of a rope. In tandem, another person would shape the features into the workpiece with a sharp tool.

Of course, with time comes change.

Variations of the Lathe

Ancient Romans (as well as others in Northern Italy, China, and what is now known as Turkey) made the initial developments to the first lathe. Changes made at this time include the addition of a turning bow and soon after, the addition of a foot pedal. The foot pedal was a very significant change. When pumped, it rotated the work piece for the operator. This removed the need for a second operator, ultimately making the process much more efficient.

Then, steam engines and water wheels were introduced in the early 19th century (and during, the first industrial revolution). When attached to lathes, the steam engines and water wheels rotated the workpiece at a rate higher than ever before.

An even bigger change happened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, (if you’re keeping track, that’s the second industrial revolution). By powered lathes with electric motors and forged tooling, the lathe could now cut metal, rather than just wood.

Can you see the pattern? Each revolution brought a change to the lathe. Not only did the industrial revolutions change manufacturing but they changed the equipment, tools, and processes, as well. With digitization and automation in the third and fourth revolutions, the lathe machine tool became what it is today – the CNC lathe.

The CNC (computer numerically controlled) lathe is just as it sounds, controlled by a computer. The pre-programmed computer software automatically controls the movement of the tool, machinery, and/or material without a lot of operator intervention. Interested in learning more about CNC machinery? Read up on them here!

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

How to Pick the Best Lunch Box

From tips to tricks to recipes, we want to make it easier for you to eat better and feel better at work. But we never talk about the lunch box itself. This month, we’re going to change that! Here’s everything you need to know about the lunch box, a list of my all-time personal favorites, and some thoughts on what makes each one great for you!

A Brief History

The first lunch box was seen in America in the 1880s. These early variants were often repurposed items such as empty tobacco tins or old cookie jars. By the 1920s, the lunch pail had become popular among younger members of the working class. When the face of Mickey Mouse first started appearing on lunch box lids, in 1935, the deal was sealed. Americans had a perfect new way to express their individuality while serving the most utilitarian of tasks. 100 years later, through metal and plastic and soft sided containers, the lunch box market has grown into a worldwide industry worth almost six billion dollars!

My All-Time Top 5 Lunchboxes

Igloo Playmate (Boss)

For more than 50 years, Igloo’s Playmate series has set the standard for personal coolers in terms of combining quality, price, performance, and durability to provide true value. This is the cooler your dad already has (and probably has longer than he’s had you). It comes in a variety of sizes to ensure you can find the perfect one to hold everything you need, from food to beverages to ice packs to paperwork! I really love the new Boss model for extra durability onsite too.

Stanley Heritage

This is for the coffee and soup fans on your shift. Stanley is better known for their Thermos-style mugs and jugs but they’ve been making coolers for a long time too. Their line is small but well made and proven in the field. I prefer their Heritage model because it combines their simple flat lid cooler with a 1.1 QT Vacuum Bottle that locks in place for transport. It’s the perfect pairing to make sure you have enough caffeine on hand to make it to lunch and that your food is still fresh once you get there!

Coleman Coolers

Coleman’s entire lineup of coolers is THE choice when price point matters most. This brand may be aimed more at the camping crowd than 9 to 5ers but they’ve been in the cooler business as long as Igloo and have the same classic styling as Stanley. Also, their products are normally around half the price of the other guys! I like everything they make but you’ll get the most bang for your buck with this three-piece combo.

Classic Aladdins

Since they created the first children’s lunch box based on the TV show Hopalong Cassidy, in 1950, Aladdin has become an icon of practical personalization. We all need to eat lunch but Aladdin’s (and their competitors’ lines) let us do so while showing the world, or just our shift, what we really care about. They also put a child size Thermos RIGHT IN THE BOX so a generation of kids could take their Campbell’s soup the same way dad took his Folgers. A lunch box can’t get more “All Time” than that! I personally prefer the blue Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles model I started with in the 1980s, but classic and current models can all be found online today.

Klein Tools Tradesmen Pro

This is the only “new” cooler to make my list. They may not have the history of brands previously mentioned, but they’ve built a better product. Good capacity, tremendously durable, transportable, feature rich, and still easy to clean, this cooler is hard to beat. Rated to hold up to 300 pounds, it’s one of the few coolers that can truly (and safely) function as a stool or step ladder onsite too. Plain and simple, no lunch box on the market is more suited to life on a job site.

I hope this helps you find a better lunch box, or at least helped you find out why you love the one you’ve got already. Regardless, if you found something to sink your teeth into, you might want to learn a little more about the history of the lunch box. Either way, keep in mind – we are always open to new ideas. If you have a recipe, tip, or trick you’d like to share, we’d love to spread the word for you. Please send any and all of your own hacks to writingteam@pmgservices.com and keep an eye out for more future hacks, too.

FAQs for FlexTrades

FlexTrades provides labor solutions to American manufacturers. That’s what we do in a nutshell and we take the “solution” part of that equation seriously. As a result, all of us here end up asking a lot of questions to make sure we find the right way to solve the real problem. Additionally, the community asks a fair amount of questions too. In this blog, FlexTrades answers the most common questions.

What is the difference between MIG (GMAW) and Flux Core (FCAW) Welding?

Great question! MIG and Flux Core welding are pretty similar in nature. They each use power supplies, are semi-automatic welding processes, allow for high production rates, and use continuous wire feeds. The two main differences between MIG and Flux Core welding are:

  • The types of electrodes being used
  • The process for shielding the electrode from the air and other contaminants

Electrode Types

In MIG welding, the electrodes are solid through-and-through. The opposite holds true in Flux Core welding where the centers of the electrodes are hollow.

Shielding Gases

In MIG welding, the electrode receives the shielding from supplied gases in tank or bottle form. In Flux Core welding, the electrode receives the shielding from flux located in the center of the electrode. The shielding gases are similar (often Carbon, Argon, Helium, and/or Oxygen) but they are supplied in different forms. MIG supplies it in the form of gas while Flux Core supplies it in the form of flux (kind of like Pixy Stix).

Interested in More?

Head to our website to read more FlexTrades FAQs.


What Not to Do – Edition 1

First Day at a New Job

There’s a lot of information available today about what we SHOULD do when searching for or starting a new job. Whether you’re looking for phone interview tips or you’re trying to spruce up your resume, we have answers for you. But most of that information, including ours, primarily focuses on what you SHOULD do. Far fewer keystrokes across the web are devoted to explaining what you SHOULD AVOID doing in any particular situation. We want to help fill the information gap with this first installment of a new semi-regular series – What Not to Do!

Without further ado, here are three things NOT to do during your first day on a new job.

1. Don’t Self-Destruct

This may sound simple, but it’s still a common problem. The biggest hurdles most people encounter their first day at a new job are self-inflicted. Do not self-destruct.

What can help:

  • Go to bed early the night before
  • Eat breakfast
  • Arrive on time or early

2. Don’t Be A Know-It-All 

You’re there and you’re new, act like it. Whether you know a lot about your industry or position, you don’t know much about your new employer or how they do things yet. There may come a time to be a change agent,but, we promise, it won’t be on your first day.

What can help:

  • Ask questions
  • Attend orientation
  • Accept meeting invitations with coworkers
  • Take good notes

3. Don’t Use Your Phone

In the pre-cell phone era, nobody brought a newspaper with them to their cubicle or onto the production floor. But technology has changed everything about our work lives, including the availability and convenience of distractions. Cell phone usage is the single most common employer complaint of employees while on the clock. If you’re someone that can have your phone in your pocket and keep it there, pat yourself on the back for being a good example to your colleagues. But, if you are one of the folks who struggle with this, there’s a simple way to avoid your phones too. Leave them in your car or locker! Out of sight is out of mind and, in this case, it’s just good business too.


If you found value in this list, you might find value in these tips for those with new hires, or who are newly hired. And remember, if you have ideas for things not to do (or places and situations in which you shouldn’t do them) we’re happy to share those too! Just send them to our PMG Writing Team and we’ll cover them in a future blog too.

Josh Erickson, ReTool Public Relations & Engagement Specialist